Volvo's S60 T5 takes turbocharging to new heights
Blowing in the wind The S60 T5 Drive-E has a tireless and revvy turbo engine and is fuss-free to drive. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

A turbocharger turns an old idiom on its head by using a car's exhaust to channel more air into the engine to increase power and performance. In essence, it makes haste with waste.

The Swedes were the first to popularise the use of turbos back in the late 1980s, even though the invention dates back more than a hundred years.

Saab used turbos to give its cars a meaty mid-range that allowed them to outpace Ferraris from 80kmh to 120kmh - the speed at which many overtaking manoeuvres take place.

Saab paid little attention to the century sprint and thus came across as "slow" to people who did not know better.

Its fellow Swede, Volvo, was more clever at playing to the crowd. It came out with outrageously powerful cars some 30 years ago that changed its "safe but staid" image forever, led by the monstrous Volvo 850.

Of course, most Volvos today will easily eclipse the 850. Take the latest S60 sedan, which packs a heady 2-litre turbocharged engine that makes 245bhp and, more impressively, 350Nm of torque from 1,500rpm.

Volvo calls it the S60 T5 Drive-E, and it takes merely 6.3 seconds to reach 100kmh from zero - almost half the time clocked by the 850.

And unlike the old juggernaut, the S60 is as efficient as it is swift. It has a stated fuel economy of 6 litres/100km and averaged 10 litres/100km during this test drive.

That is really not bad for something quicker than a Volkswagen Golf GTI in the 0-100kmh sprint.

What impresses more is the car's completely relaxed stance, an impression reinforced by its light and responsive throttle, backed up by immense low-end torque.

The amazing linearity of its power delivery helps too. It revs cleanly to 4,000rpm in a jiffy, although occasions that call for such a burst of power are rare. The S60 T5 flows like a river with a calm surface - it leaves histrionics to other cars.

It is this fuss-free way that helps you unwind and enjoy the drive and the car. Like all Volvos, the S60 has a Scandinavian interior that appears minimalist, but is full of functionality.

Its digital gauges, neat and symmetrically laid-out centre console as well as seats that hug you gently around the waist come across as thoughtful designs, not clever for the sake of being clever.

The Swede brand knows that simplicity, if executed well, surpasses sophistication.

The S60 is compact and endowed with a reasonably dynamic chassis to keep you entertained. It appears nimble and lightfooted in all the manoeuvres required of cars in a metropolis - such as side-stepping errant cabs, passing road-hoggers and cork-screwing up a multi-storey carpark ramp.

Its steering has a bit more heft than many Volvos, but it suffers from a rather wide turning circle. The way road roar intrudes into the cabin is also a weak point.

To its credit, the car disengages its electronic parking brake imperceptibly and its stop-start system reignites the engine with more refinement than most cars, including luxury models.

As a passenger vehicle, the S60 excels with plenty of room (five individual seats), decent ride comfort and adequate amenities.

Features include leather upholstery, powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-inch infotainment monitor and one-touch window controls.

The fanciful black Alecto rims on the test car are a $9,300 option, though.

And being a Volvo, it has a host of safety features. A battery of airbags goes without saying. But the more unusual ones include City Safety - an autonomous low-speed emergency braking system - and Intelligent Driver Information System - which delays an incoming phone call if it senses tense driving behaviour.

But at the end of the day, it is the car's tireless and revvy turbo engine that makes it stand out the most. In a segment where every other car is also a turbo, it is no mean feat. Then again, Volvo has had lots of practice.

CAR INFORMATION

Volvo S60 T5 Momentum (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,969 cc

Horsepower

:

241 bhp / 5,500 rpm

Torque

:

350 Nm / 4,800 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Geartronic

Acceleration

:

6.3 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

230 km/h